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Life in the Ivory Tower:
Those who can, teach;
Those who can’t, do.
Behzad Razavi
Electrical Engineering Department
University of California, Los Angeles
"Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach."
George Bernard Shaw
What do profs do?
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Learn the fine art of juggling.
Teach.
Research: Try new ideas, supervise grad students,
write papers, write proposals, schmooz with
companies and other funding agencies, serve on
conferences and journals, network with peers,
maintain lab facilities, maintain CAD tools.
Write books.
University service: courses and curriculum,
admissions and fellowships, prelims, quals, seminars,
faculty candidates, school-level committees.
But why?!
“America believes in education: the average
professor earns more money in a year than a
professional athlete earns in a whole week.”
Evan Esar
Why Go to Academia?
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Like the freedom of research that academia
offers.
Like teaching.
Like the dynamic and rejuvenating nature
of academic life.
Like the flexible style of academia  consulting,
starting companies, etc.
Can't find a job in industry.
Research
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Crack a real, difficult problem by an elegant,
novel solution.
Need to pose these questions at the beginning
and at the end:
- What is the problem? Why do we care?
- What is our novelty?
- Can others duplicate our results?
- Will others duplicate our results?
- How do we compare with prior art?
Requires that we constantly identify or invent
interesting topics.
 Both creativity and vision are important.
Publish or Perish
Conference papers give immediate visibility.
 Journal papers create long-term archival
record that enables others to duplicate results.
(Many universities “count” only journal papers.)
 Need to remain visible: travel around the world
and present new results  10 trips/year
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PhD Students
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Need to apply a great deal of scrutiny in selecting
students.
Look for intelligence, independent thinking,
creativity, persistence, communication skills.
(Will the student pass the prelims?)
Need to understand the psychology of each
student and treat him/her accordingly.
Need to shield the student from pressures of
sponsors.
Professor often worries more about the work than
the student does.
Difference between PhD Student and Prof.
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PhD student knows everything about nothing.
Professor knows nothing about everything.
Funding
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It’s tough.
Writing proposals and managing contracts takes
about 20% of professors’ time.
Professors
Funding Agencies
Teaching
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Rewarding experience.
First time, takes 10 hours of work for one hour of
lecture.
Teaching undergrads much tougher than
teaching grads.
Need to revise and update the material each time.
A great deal of thought goes into designing
homeworks, exams, and course projects.
Financial Prospects
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Professors who are good at what they do are
typically in high demand outside university
as well:
- Teaching Short Courses
- Consulting
- Starting Companies
- Expert Witness
On the average, profs and engineers in industry
are on roughly equal financial footings.
20% of profs start companies; 1 out of 4 may
become successful.
Finding an Academic Job
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It is preferable to work in industry for a few years.
There are certain windows for entering academia.
Your CV and statement say a lot about you.
Universities look for these components:
- Innovation
- Vision
- Publications
- Teaching and Communication Skills
Preparations – Phase I
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Starting a couple of years before graduation, look
through every issue of IEEE Spectrum and monitor
which university is looking for what type of expertise.
Work on your writing and presentation skills.
Give seminars at different universities once you have
presentable results. (But remember: first impressions
are important.)
Talk to your advisor and seek additional activities that
can enhance your qualifications.
Preparations – Phase II
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Target departments whose faculty do NOT have much
overlap with you.
Do your homework thoroughly:
- Learn about the research of every faculty at that
department (in your area and related areas).
- Present yourself as someone who can bring new
exciting areas of research to the department, but also
as someone whose expertise complements other
faculty’s work.

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